|There is a lovely muscularity pervading Jared Smith's work that's reminiscent of the more obvious long-lined poets' efforts, Whitman's and C.K. William's, for example. But Smith's poetry is unique in that he seems, unlike these other two writers, not to think in terms of an "overflowing line" but to peer, consistently, beyond it. What this means is that while Whitman's long lines are incantatory and Williams' are loquacious in a relaxed, double-hexameter sort of way, Smith's work, much like an Action Painter's, serves the ambition of the gesture and thus, of necessity, stretches beyond the canvas.
— Terri Brown-Davidson
Rhapsodic is a word applicable to very few poets today. Jared Smith is one—triumphantly so in Grassroots. And what powerful roots these poems are. Let me speak out clear and bold: in this superb collection of lyric poems.... Smith’s contemporary rhapsodic yawp [sounds] like Thor’s hammer over the boardrooms and the war rooms and the stock exchanges and the spires and domes of the world. Poetry might not make anything happen, but this poet knows what happens without it. Read him and be grateful.
— George Drew, author of American Cool
With Grassroots, Jared Smith continues to explore human longing, sorrow, and resilience.… His content is singular, specific, concrete, but it always functions sublimely, pointing towards the grander cycles of Eros and Thanatos. Here is a poet deep with thought and rich with emotion.
Grassroots is a compelling, haunting, and unforgettable collection, one that I’ll be revisiting and referencing for years to come.
— John Amen, Editor of The Pedestal Magazine;
author of At The Threshold of Alchemy
Smith casts a wide net that seines in diverse images from nature and domestic life that revitalize our sense of the wildness of our existence on this planet. I can think of no other American poet who can credibly carry us, in the span of a single line break, from buckets of cornflakes to trawlers filled with fish—and make that connection seem inevitable.
— Allen Hoey, author of Once Upon a Time at Blanche’s
and Stricter Means: Selected Earlier Poems
From the book, Grassroots ---
People, Not so Much
Every single one of them has a nose
lying right in front of the jaws,
telling them whether to slip a tongue
or sink the teeth into a face.
And way down at the other end
most of them have some sort of stump
that tells one what the nose thought,
as if you’d need a reminder by then.
True of mountain lions, poodles, deer,
rhesus monkeys, alligators, bears,
and a whole lot of things with furry hair.
People not so much, though. Sometimes
you have to unwrap them and probe
because with people the teeth can lie,
and the nose may make that little stumpy thing
something a bit bigger and harder to handle,
which is something you’d like to know about
to know maybe if the ends justify the means.
Virtues of the Grassfire
The fire down Old Stage Road burned fast,
the way grassfires do with mountain winds behind them,
lighting canyon rock like a volcano coming back;
but it’s in that speed that things survive if not caught
outside their burrows, if hunkered down in their dens
among the deep roots that permeate their lives, give meaning.
The fire blows past fast where it meets dry grass.
Hoses are no use, nor fire trucks out on the plains,
not until the flames draw up against the town itself.
Oh, we lost a house or two out there on the hills,
some artwork, paintings, a couple of songs as well,
blown away into the ages of wings that beat that night,
but the trees remain: the cottonwood, the piñon, spruce,
their trunks a bit blacked now, but they survive hardly
touched by the rage that shakes the grasses and moves on.
And the grasses too survive; I’m not sure what goes up
in that smoke that terrifies: certainly something does,
but the roots in the soil maintain their lives, dig deeper
and bloom again wildly when the spring rains come.
A man can make a stand in such storms at the end of town,
grab a shovel to clear brush away, hose down his fabricated home,
stop the fire with a blizzard of industry and camera crews.
That’s all it takes: a man doesn’t need deep roots for fire like this.
And it’s just as well, because a man cannot come back like sage.
The bigger fires, though, we’re lucky if they stay away.
The ones that get going in the national forest lands among pine
where the heat is greater and the flames roar two hundred feet high
and the trunks of trees are eaten away from inside and even the roots
of alpine grasses are heated over time beyond endurance.
These are the slow fires, the heavy ones that change a continent,
the ones that we band together to fight. We’re lucky indeed to keep
those fires away. They’re enough to kill a man because they’re slow
and they sweep everything in their path. They come from a deeper drought,
and I guess they have a purpose and a place, keeping man humble
as they do, but they take a lot of life away for the sunsets that remain.